'Take the Adarsh society scam as the lead on page 1, the CWG scam as second lead and the telecom scandal at the bottom,' said the editor, breezing into the news meeting. An uncomfortable silence ensued. An earnest assistant editor finally screwed up his courage to blurt out, "They've fixed it, boss. Chavan is out, Kalmadi has been sacked and it's a matter of time before Raja goes." The editor was shocked, but recovered his poise quickly. "Oh," he said, "then just put the latest scams on page 1. Use that op-ed by Zizek on The Epistemology of Scamming. In the comics section, take The Adventures of Swindlerman." "And for the evening talk show on our TV channel," he added, "work up plenty of shock and outrage over some scam or the other."
The bureau chief then broke the news that not only were there no developments on the big scams, even the little scams seemed to be taking a rest. The horror of the situation slowly seeped into the editor's mind. "No scams? How can you have a paper without any scams?" he screeched.
The earnest assistant editor said they could take the G20 meeting as the lead. The editor's lip curled in contempt. A poor sap said they could write about the drop in industrial production. "Who the heck," enquired the editor sarcastically, "is bothered about it?" "We could make it interesting," said a bright young spark, "We could say 'It was a dark and stormy night when the index of industrial production suddenly plunged, hitting the finance minister on his head as it toppled'." The editor was unimpressed. "We could have the talk show on Sara Khan in Bigg Boss being upset with her wedding dress because it was made for a fat person and we could all be infuriated over it," said the executive editor, "How does, 'Sara, the entire nation demands to know how fat you are' sound?"
It was then that the edit page editor spoke. "What about having 'No scams today' as the lead?" he asked timidly. "We could start it off snappily," he said, "something like 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times'." "Someone already said that," said the managing editor. "Must be Obama," said the bright young spark. The editor warmed to the theme, "We could write about how people were feeling low and wandering about disconsolately because there weren't any scams. We could quote people on how odd they were feeling." "I could easily get quotes from Shashi Tharoor, Shah Rukh Khan, Sachin Tendulkar and maybe Sarah Palin, to give it an international angle," said an ace reporter.
"We could have a whole section on 'Making money without scams'," said the business editor. "I'm planning a series on 'Does a scamless day increase your stress levels? Ten tips on how to cope'," said the features editor. "I'll do a piece on 'Beachwear for the scam-free woman', it'll be a big hit," said the bright young spark. "That's it," said the editor, snapping his fingers decisively, "we'll have a No Scams edition, with news items about how there were no scams today." "You", he added, pointing to the poor sap, "will do a piece for the cookery pages on 'How to make a scamless chutney'." As he got up to leave, he addressed the assembled hacks sombrely, "Let us in this difficult time so bear ourselves that, if this newspaper were to last for a 1,000 years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour'."
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint. The views expressed by the author are personal.